Updated: May 23
Everyone in business is a problem solver, regardless of their role or level. It’s part of the text book definition of a leader, physicist, analyst, or receptionist.
But how you solve problems depends on whether you see challenges or opportunities – and whether you approach or avoid them.
That’s not new. So why do most smart business leaders add to their problems by not considering how they unconsciously view their problems?
Your perspective dictates what solution you find – or don’t find. And whether you live with rainbows or rainstorms.
Your perspective is largely shaped by context, career and training. I wasn’t an engineer graduate or trained to solve problems in maths, astrophysics or science. But I was - and still am - a keen student of interpreting the irrationalities of the human mind - a different type of problem solving that involves the unconscious, the complex and the contradictory.
Interpreting behavioural barriers and problems a bigger problem than you think because nobody thinks they have this problem.
Yet solving it has earned some experts a Nobel Prize.
We’re all problem solvers – of the business situation and human condition. Both must be seen together.
I started my career as a Consultant. The role was to find different ways to address weaknesses in a clients’ business operations.
I later became a Chief Marketing Officer in investment management. The role was to find opportunities to grow the business and exceed shareholder expectations.
And as a Behavioural Scientist, I analyze psychological barriers in businesses and suggest ways to fix them.
Like you, I regularly hear people focus on what is wrong rather than what is right. An irritant! Some just love to point out what you don’t do instead of what you do, what you forget instead of what you remember, what you miss instead of what you catch.
If you view every situation as a series of opportunities, you’ll find opportunities everywhere.
If you view every situation as a series of mistakes, you’ll find mistakes everywhere – sometimes, even when they don’t exist. But aren’t these just learning opportunities?
The compounding problem in problem-solving is that when we rush into problem-solving mode, we look for weaknesses not strengths. We focus on negatives not positives. We dwell on loss not gain. We blame others not ourselves. Now that is a mistake!
There’s always an easier way. The trick is to find it. And use it.
Instead of starting with ‘what’ is wrong’, start with ‘what is right’. Instead of wasting your precious and limited attention looking for problems, look for opportunities and easy solutions all around you. It’s contagious. I call my husband ‘solutions.com’ – because he always slays the dragon and finds a solution!
If you attend to others’ problems rather than your own, you’ll feel instantly rewarded, be distracted from your own woes and get a dopamine shot.
If you have a team conflict, examine what is really happening under the surface for each person and ease those conditions.
If you’re struggling with a difficult decision, just find someone who made it before and get a second opinion. Opinions are rarely in short supply!
Just as problem-solving is a choice between different solutions, positivity is a choice between living in a colourful or colourless world.
Look in the mirror before you look elsewhere. And choose your problem-solving mindset wisely.
As a leader, people are looking to you as the solution to their problem.